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Op/Ed voices

Meagre result and new alliances

by D+C | E+Z
The world must wait – even after taxing night sessions, the summit did not deliver results to stem global warming anytime soon: delegates taking a rest at Durban

The world must wait – even after taxing night sessions, the summit did not deliver results to stem global warming anytime soon: delegates taking a rest at Durban

After the UN climate summit in Durban in December, most Op/Ed pages around the world pointed out that the agreement reached will not stop global warming fast enough. Beyond this point, most commentators showed interest in the new alliances that became evident. Neither the rich nations, nor the emerging market countries nor the developing world acted in blocks.

Germany: Süddeutsche Zeitung
This summit did not stop global warming. After global carbon emissions soared to a new high in 2010, the governments present in South Africa did not agree on more than a schedule, according to which a new agreement will come into force in 2020 – after eight more years of huge emissions.

Bolivia: La Razón
For obvious reasons, countries with great numbers of poor like India, Brazil and China insist on their right to develop and do not want to accept the kind of limits that apply to rich western nations. It is equally obvious, however, that such economic progress will affect the climate and, ultimately, everybody’s standard of living. Whether we like it or not, our planet cannot cope with its resources being over-exploited much longer. Such over-exploitation has already caused an ecological crisis that is threatening our way of life.

Argentina: La Nación
The agreement is a victory for EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. She united a powerful coalition of African states, Asia’s poor states, island states and major players like Brazil and South Africa, sustaining it for two long weeks and finally getting the Chinese and the North Americans to accept legally binding rules. It would be a milestone if the international community agreed on the new rules by 2015, so the history of attempts to tackle climate change would have to be re-written.

Bangladesh: The Daily Star
Political will, especially of the rich and major polluting nations, is lacking. It is up to the emerging nations and LDCs [least developed countries, ed.], some of whom are the worst affected in the world, to push their agenda through concerted efforts. Bangladesh, one of the most vulnerable nations, has played a significant role at Durban as well as the preceding Climate Vulnerable Forum, but it too must now carry on the efforts and engage countries such as the US, China, India and Brazil in doing more before the next climate negotiations.

Qatar: Al Jazeera English
With the continuing unrest in the Middle East, it’s interesting to speculate about what might happen within the 22-member Arab League, including Palestine. Perhaps, as the bloc throws off the yoke of local despots, the grouping could become a key voice on progressive issues like global warming. Such hopes, however, seem far off. For the time being, Arab League members like Saudi Arabia stand in the way of change, with the kingdom declaring that climate change agreements shouldn’t limit oil-producing income.

UK: The Guardian
There is an unvarying conflict of interest in the fight against climate change between developed and developing economies. The question is who pays for the past, and how to pay for the future, without the heaviest burden falling on those most vulnerable to climate change – the least developed countries and small island states. The Kyoto treaty rightly weighted the scales against the developed world. Ever since, the developed world has been trying to get a new deal, reflecting the rapid growth of some emerging economies, which now account for more than half of carbon emissions. Overcoming bitter opposition, especially from India, whose headline growth figures disguise a poverty level still running above 40 %, was Durban’s big success.

India: Business Standard
The Western media singled out India as the deal-breaker and condemned it as a country wanting its right to pollute. But was the issue as simple as it was made out to be? When negotiations on climate change began over 20 years ago, it was well understood that the industrialised world – contributor of 70 to 80 % to the stock of emissions in the atmosphere – had to vacate space for the emerging world to grow. The deal also was that money and technology transfer would enable emerging countries to avoid future emissions growth. But none of this happened. Meagre targets were set; the US and other big polluters walked out of the agreement. The funds never came.

China: People’s Daily
Developed countries were a disappointment over the course of the conference. Their behaviour proved that the world is still dominated by selfish interests. Instead of shouldering their responsibilities, developed countries have poured more efforts into shifting the blame. In the past, they either accused China of ruining previous climate talks, or used the country as an excuse for not cutting their emissions. Their argument is that China is no longer a developing state. As one of the biggest emitters, it must have a compulsory emission target similar to its developed counterparts. But without the right technologies in place, answering this demand will bring considerable damage to China’s development.

Algeria: El Watan
According to experts, the circumstances of this summit were particularly unfavourable, with the US Congress blocking the American administration and Europe struggling with disagreements on national debts and the Euro crisis. Accordingly, there was a leadership gap in Durban. Perhaps emerging market countries (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) will fill this gap in the future.

South Africa: Business Day
The biggest “win” is that the COP-17 ­presidency, headed by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, got both developed and developing nations to agree in principle that the 200-or-so negotiating nations should all be legally bound to reduce their emissions. This fundamentally changes the picture. At least, in principle, it does. And therein lies the problem. What to do about climate change has been negotiated at this level for 17 years. And this is how far we have got. It is hard to explain why all we have done is negotiate away the lives, homes and livelihoods of those who live in low-lying states, the most evocatively visible of these being the Maldives. (...) The Durban talks achieved slightly more than was promised by SA [South Africa, ed] as host, but it is also arguable that Ms Nkoana-Mashabane operated on the principle of “under-promise and over-deliver”.